The contribution of travellers visiting friends and relatives to notified infectious diseases in Australia: state-based enhanced surveillance

A. E. Heywood*, N. Zwar, B. L. Forssman, H. Seale, N. Stephens, J. Musto, C. Lane, B. Polkinghorne, M. Sheikh, M. Smith, H. Worth, C. R. Macintyre

*Corresponding author for this work

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13 Citations (Scopus)


Immigrants and their children who return to their country of origin to visit friends and relatives (VFR) are at increased risk of acquiring infectious diseases compared to other travellers. VFR travel is an important disease control issue, as one quarter of Australia's population are foreign-born and one quarter of departing Australian international travellers are visiting friends and relatives. We conducted a 1-year prospective enhanced surveillance study in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia to determine the contribution of VFR travel to notifiable diseases associated with travel, including typhoid, paratyphoid, measles, hepatitis A, hepatitis E, malaria and chikungunya. Additional data on characteristics of international travel were collected. Recent international travel was reported by 180/222 (81%) enhanced surveillance cases, including all malaria, chikungunya and paratyphoid cases. The majority of cases who acquired infections during travel were immigrant Australians (96, 53%) or their Australian-born children (43, 24%). VFR travel was reported by 117 (65%) travel-associated cases, highest for typhoid (31/32, 97%). Cases of children (aged <18 years) (86%) were more frequently VFR travellers compared to adult travellers (57%, P < 0·001). VFR travel is an important contributor to imported disease in Australia. Communicable disease control strategies targeting these travellers, such as targeted health promotion, are likely to impact importation of these travel-related infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3554-3563
Number of pages10
JournalEpidemiology and Infection
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


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